By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario – The graphic head-on car crash staged for high school seniors delivered a sobering lesson, and judging by the hundreds of shocked expressions it may have been learned.
Police, paramedics and firefighters hosted Safe Grad 2015 to educate students on the dangers of driving while impaired during prom night and graduation season.
The annual event on Thursday (May 7) gathered nearly 1,100 teenagers from across Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry.
Students acted as accident victims and real rescue personnel responded to the scene sprawled across the concrete floor of the Cornwall Civic Complex.
Playing the drunk driver was Rothwell-Osnabruck senior Shayla Kroeze who was covered in fake scrapes, cuts, and blood from the staged event.
“Just acting it out made a few of us cry because we thought about if it happened to one of our friends,” said Kroeze.
“We want people to make safe choices. If you’re drinking find another ride home.”
Fellow R.O. senior Calla Legue played one of the injured victims.
“Even though it was just a simulation, it felt absolutely terrifying,” said Legue.
Bradley Nuttley, community safety coordinator with Cornwall SD&G EMS, said the event’s focus this year’s is “making smart decisions.”
“It’s not only about underage drinking, it’s about distracted driving, especially texting, and getting behind the wheel while being high on drugs,” said Nuttley.
Over 24 community partners rallied at Safe Grad to help push the message, knowing prom parties are currently being planned in the city and the neighbouring townships.
St. Joseph’s student Shawnia Labelle vowed she would never get in a vehicle with an impaired driver after witnessing the gruesome simulation.
“It’s just not worth the consequences because it doesn’t only impact you,” said Labelle.
She plans on getting her driver’s licence this summer, so she tested her skills at an interactive display manned by Ivan Labelle of Centre de sante commnautaire de l’Estrie.
Labelle attempted to text as she guided a tiny vehicle attached to a stick along a street map sketched on a large cloth.
Barely two messages were sent before she ran a mock red light and collided into a street pole.
“Students realized when you’re driving you can only you do one thing at a time, or people get hurt,” said Ivan Labelle. “I was glad to hear a lot of them say that texting and driving is not a realistic option.”